This may or may not become a semi-regular feature on Fridays. It depends on how many fallacies I find interesting enough to write about.
I have been fascinated by the world of behavioral economics for several years now, and always enjoy learning something new, especially when it comes to our cognitive biases. Dan Ariely mentioned on is his most recent post – escalation of commitment – so I thought it would be fun to have a regular post that featured a different cognitive bias each week.
As I was searching for such a list (Wikipedia has quite a list), I came across a link to the concept of fallacies. According to Wikipedia, a fallacy is reasoning that is logically incorrect, undermines the logical validity of an argument, or is recognized as unsound.
So I started to scroll through the list and came across many fallacies that I found interesting. So I thought I would share some of those, perhaps on a periodic basis.
The first one I thought I would write about is known as “if by whiskey” – an argument that supports both sides of an issue by using terms that are emotionally sensitive and ambiguous.
The origin of the phrase is a classic example of doublespeak. Here is what Wikipedia offers:
The label if-by-whiskey refers to a 1952 speech by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi, on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit (which it did until 1966) or finally legalize alcoholic beverages:
My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
Wow – this guy is good. I don’t know if I want to run to my closest bar and get a shot of whiskey, or to avoid the stuff at all cost.
He effectively appealed to both sides of the argument, it just depends what you mean by the word whiskey.
I’ll give it a shot here. If someone asked me how I feel about blogging every day, here’s how I might respond:
If by blogging you mean the opportunity to potentially share your thoughts with a larger audience than you would normally reach, or to virtually meet people from around the world, or to engage in thoughtful and entertaining dialogue with fellow bloggers from around the world and learn different points of view, or the opportunity to learn something new every day on a wide range of topics, then how could I not love blogging.
But, if by blogging you mean the pressure of having to come up with something new to write about every day, of the pressure to provide thoughtful, clever, and entertaining comments on other people’s posts as well as responding to comments on your own post, of the time devoted to blogging, sometimes amounting to 3-4 hours every day, of the sense of disappointment of pouring your heart and soul into a post only to have no one read or comment on it, then why would I bother blogging.
This is my stand on blogging. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.